Businesses comply with consumer laws

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The key to achieving a fair and competitive marketplace is ensuring that businesses comply with consumer laws. We focus on achieving high levels of business compliance by working with relevant industry bodies and other partners.

We continue to support businesses to be compliant and provide them with information and publications to help them meet their obligations.

Under our integrated, risk-based approach to compliance, we aim to act quickly against businesses and organisations causing most harm, so as to protect Victorian consumers before there is significant detriment.

In 2017–18, we used a range of regulatory tools to address poor conduct by businesses and significant breaches of consumer protection laws. The table below provides an overview of our actions in meeting this goal.

We integrated new underquoting laws brought about by the Estate Agents Amendment (Underquoting) Act 2016 into our ongoing compliance program.

The Federal Court decision in our case against Fletcher and Parker (Balwyn) Pty Ltd was a strong endorsement of our approach and the $880,000 penalty was a state record for underquoting.

We made it easier for businesses to comply with their obligations, with our online licensing and registration system, myCAV, expanded to include estate agents.

We also introduced new legislation enabling the Minister for Consumer Affairs to exempt an incorporated association or class of associations from annual financial reporting requirements if they are also registered with, and reporting to, another regulator (such as the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission).

We continued our work on our digital-first approach, implementing a responsive website to engage and enable Victorian businesses and consumers to access easy-to-understand information on a range of devices and platforms.

When products posed a risk to consumers and children, we responded quickly by inspecting or removing them. We conducted 1,117 inspections, leading to the removal of more than 60,000 unsafe items from sale.

Compliance activities undertaken1

  2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Compliance
Inspections 5,796 5,769 5,972
Investigations2 152 105 71
Market monitoring activity3 960 411 456
Businesses engaged through the Better Business Initiative 115 121 121
Parties to criminal proceedings, appeals and rehearings 18 18 6
Parties to civil proceedings 57 41 35
Parties signed to enforceable undertakings 11 22 8
Registration and licensing
Annual returns, updates or cancellations processed for incorporated associations, fundraisers and co-operatives 55,826 51,157 55,217
Total registration and licensing transactions4 88,221 84,154 93,186

1 Data in varies between years based on our regulatory risk priorities, government policy, the nature of our compliance program and the cyclical nature of our integrated compliance approach.

2 The increased complexity of investigations after 2015–16, largely influenced by underquoting matters, resulted in lower volumes.

3 Market monitoring activity reduced after 2015–16 as a result of sufficient information being obtained to assure major investigations.

4 Registration activity and estate agent transactions have increased, in part as a result of making electronic transactions simpler through myCAV.

77,718 myCAV transactions and 71,405 users including 9,593 estate agents registered on myCAV, our online management system. 

We are committed to making it easier for Victorian businesses to interact with us, comply with laws and not be burdened with unnecessary red tape.

Following the successful implementation of myCAV, which enables incorporated associations to manage their responsibilities online, we are creating a single, modern information technology system to support all of our regulatory functions and the function of the Business Licensing Authority.

The rooming house operator licensing scheme commenced on myCAV in April 2017, and the system was further expanded this financial year for estate agents.

myCAV is being used extensively by incorporated associations: more than 6,500 new incorporated associations have registered since it launched in March 2015, and more than 290,000 transactions have been processed.

Similarly, myCAV has been widely accepted by estate agents and rooming house operators with more than 32,500 transactions processed since its launch to these groups.

The charitable and not-for-profit sector provides a vital social and economic contribution to Victoria. We are committed to identifying opportunities to reduce unnecessary red tape so that charities and not-for-profits can focus their time and resources on fulfilling their community and social purposes.

We introduced new legislation enabling the Minister for Consumer Affairs to exempt incorporated associations or a class of associations from annual financial reporting requirements if they are also registered with and reporting to another regulator.

From 1 July 2018, we will use this new provision to remove separate reporting requirements where incorporated associations are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

 3.6 million unique visits to the CAV website


We launched our new responsive website in June 2017, enabling seamless access from any device.

Our website is now more accessible for consumers and businesses using mobile devices, resulting in significant behaviour change: mobile users are spending significantly longer on the website.

Since its launch, content is easier to find, with improved search functions and metadata improvements.

The website provides education, advice and self-help information resources in a range of formats that are easy to find, understand and act on.

In addition to text content, the use of video, icons and other visual tools help consumers understand their rights and responsibilities, and businesses to understand what they have to do to comply with the law.

Considering the breadth of our online visitors, the website provides assistance in 28 languages other than English, including translated video content and Readspeaker (text to speech software) for those with low literacy, learning disabilities or those who speak but may not necessarily read in English.

We seek to understand the customer experience, by listening to and acting on feedback. We have worked to implement a series of recommendations to improve customer satisfaction with the website and enable self-help where appropriate.

Our improved online tool suite includes decision tree functionality and quizzes. Its new search capability has been tested with real users to support a digital-first approach.

  

We integrated into our ongoing compliance program the new underquoting laws in the Estate Agents Amendment (Underquoting) Act 2016.

We tested compliance with the new laws through our spring 2017 and autumn 2018 auction monitoring campaigns, during which we monitored the marketing of 100 properties. We also checked estate agents’ compliance with the new requirements relating specifically to statements of information, with over 100 statements assessed for compliance this financial year.

We worked with the Real Estate Institute of Victoria to share the changes with their members, and connected with all licensed estate agents through direct mail, SMS, online newsletters and social media about the new laws.

We partnered with Realestate. com.au (who are a part of REA Group), the leading real estate platform in Australia, to deliver original, bespoke content to first home buyers actively looking to purchase properties. REA Group created and promoted two videos and articles that shared the new underquoting laws through contextual case studies.

We took strong enforcement action when laws were not followed. The Federal Court of Australia found Fletcher and Parker (Balwyn) Pty Ltd engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, and made false or misleading representations about the sale of land.

Our investigation revealed the agency had marketed and negotiated the sale of 22 residential properties throughout 2015, knowing the vendors would not sell for a price within the listed range, or properties were unlikely to sell for the listed price.

The $880,000 penalty was a state record for underquoting. Fletcher and Parker was also ordered to undertake a compliance program, publish adverse publicity notices about its illegal conduct and pay our legal costs.


Buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction many people undertake in their lifetime. When selling, most Victorians put their trust in an estate agent.

One of many protections for buyers and sellers under the Estate Agents Act 1980 is the requirement for agents to keep money they receive on behalf of any other person in a separate trust account.

Failing to handle trust account money appropriately may result in property owners being adversely affected and property purchases being delayed or failing, causing emotional and financial stress for those involved.

During 2017–18, CAV conducted 807 trust account inspections for compliance with laws and processed over 2,900 trust account audits. When discrepancies were identified, we acted quickly.

We issued criminal charges against Judy Nguyen, the sole director of JNT Law Investments Pty Ltd (in Liq) ACN 161 495 905 and an employee agent Joseph Ngo for breaches of the Act relating to misappropriation of trust money. JNT operated LJ Hooker franchises in Glen Waverley, Keysborough, Mount Waverley, Burwood, Doncaster and Box Hill.

Claims totalling more than $2 million were paid from the Victorian Property Fund (VPF) to property owners or purchasers who suffered loss as a result of these former LJ Hooker franchises.

The VPF was established under the Estate Agents Act 1980 to provide protections to consumers who suffer financial loss due to the actions of an estate agent.

Mr Ngo entered a guilty plea in July 2017 to various charges and on 15 March 2018, was found guilty and sentenced to five years’ jail with a minimum term of three years. He must also repay the VPF the amount it paid out due to his offending. Ms Nguyen’s trial is scheduled to begin in April 2019.

We removed thousands of dangerous and unsafe products from Victorian shelves, following inspections in the lead-up to Christmas.

Through November and December, we conducted more than 400 inspections, leading to the seizure of over 3,200 unsafe products.

This inspection program came a week after the Federal Court of Australia issued a $1 million penalty to retailer Daiso Industries (Australia) Pty Ltd, which was found to have supplied, offered to supply or possessed goods that did not comply with mandatory product safety and information standards, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

A cross-jurisdiction investigation, involving our counterparts in New South Wales and Queensland, led to the seizure of more than 6,500 non-compliant products from 15 Daiso stores, including seven stores in Victoria.

Our commitment to effective compliance monitoring through our Project Jupiter initiative was rewarded this year at the Department of Justice and Regulation’s Risk and Resilience Awards.

The awards recognise projects that actively apply best practice to manage risk or increase resilience, and provide insights into practical ways of addressing these challenges.

This project was chosen from a competitive field of nominees across the department, and is a great example of the drive and commitment of our staff to efficiency, innovation and collaboration.

Through Project Jupiter, we established a robust framework for monitoring and enforcing court orders against and undertakings by businesses who have breached consumer law.

An enforceable undertaking is a written undertaking offered by a business that admits breaching a consumer protection law, confirming they have stopped and will not repeat the conduct. They are often more efficient and effective than a court proceeding.

We have now embedded this project as business as usual and included voluntary undertakings in our monitoring framework.

We took a range of enforcement actions in 2017–18. Actions completed or in progress at 30 June 2018 are outlined in the table below.

Parties signed to enforceable undertakings

Legislation Parties

Australian Consumer Law (Victoria)

Peleguy Distributions Pty Ltd
Yaniv Peleg
Australia Manolite Pty Ltd
Zhenghong Mei
Gemwide Trading Pty Ltd
Wan Wing Mo
JRW Property International Pty Ltd
Dong Pei Ren
Superior Realty Pty Ltd
Evangelos Nestor
Fadi Khoder
MRK Distributor Pty Ltd
Mounir Kassabian

Court and tribunal matters

Prosecutions finalised

Legislation Parties
Estate Agents Act 1980 Melbourne Deluxe Real Estate Pty Ltd
Paul Pfeffier
Ranelagh Realty Pty Ltd
Helen Sly
Tri Duc Ngo (also known as Joseph Ngo)
Motor Car Traders Act 1986 Nicholas Augerinos

Civil proceedings finalised (including disciplinary inquiry and appeals)

Legislation Parties
Estate Agents Act 1980 Gull and Company Pty Ltd
Peter Maxwell Simmons
Danielle Talia
Bonds Real Estate Sales Pty Ltd
Manningham Property Group Pty Ltd
Joseph Ko
Peter Murray Daly
Sedinsi Pty Ltd 
Sex Work Act 1994 Josef Rutten
Zhao Yuan Pan
Joseph (Joe Paul) Molinari 
Australian Consumer Law (Victoria) Annabelle Natalie Gibson
Inkerman Road Nominees Pty Ltd (in liquidation)
Daiso Industries (Australia) Pty Ltd
The Reject Shop Limited
Fair Group Global Pty Ltd
Fair Financial Pty Ltd
Bluebell Conveyancing Australia Pty Ltd
Fletcher & Parker (Balwyn) Pty Ltd
Kenneth Chappell
Anastasios Adgemis

Manningham Property Group Pty Ltd (t/a Hocking Stuart Doncaster)

Big Aussie Deals Pty Ltd
Steven Petrovski 
Rooming House Operators Act 2016  Muralietharan Varadharajah
Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 and Australian Consumer Law (Vic) Tim Phan
Walid El Haouli

Administrative/Judicial review

Legislation Parties
On behalf of the Business Licensing Authority
Second-Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989 Sell Your Gold Pty Ltd
Diamonds on Sale Pty Ltd
The Gold Buying Company Pty Ltd
Estate Agents Act 1980 Minh Thai
Jessica Muphy
Khaled Khaled
On behalf of the Motor Car Traders Claims Committee
Motor Car Traders Act 1986 James Galea
Thannun Hussan

Ongoing court matters as at 30 June 2018

Criminal prosecution

Legislation Parties
Estate Agents Act 1980 Realestate Property Pty Ltd
Judy Nguyen
DMSM Real Estate Pty Ltd (in liquidation)
Conveyancers Act 2006 Bonzi Group Pty Ltd
Meganita Marranu
Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995 Cain Robert Padman
Motor Car Traders Act 1986 Gelzar Ali Aziz

Civil proceedings (including disciplinary inquiry)

Legislation Parties
Estate Agents Act 1980 Century 21 Australia Pty Ltd
Tsun Ngai Lee
Robert Pedersen Real Estate Pty Ltd
Robert Pedersen
Bill Kaye & Co Pty Ltd
Vassilios Kaimakamis
Dean Anthony Johnson
Darren James Dean
Property Express Pty Ltd
The Sarain Pty Ltd
Surinder Surain
Australian Consumer Law (Victoria) Melbourne South Eastern Real Estate Pty Ltd
Domain Register Pty Ltd
Origo & Co Pty Ltd
Wens Bros Trading Pty Ltd
Wen Hui Xu
Sex Work Act 1994 Lin Gao
Xian Yan Meng
Motor Car Traders Act 1986 James Wapshott
Wapshott Motors Pty Ltd

Administrative review on behalf of the Business Licensing Authority

Legislation Parties
Estate Agents Act 1980 Khaled Khaled

Registers administered by Consumer Affairs Victoria

  New applications lodged Total on register
2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Estate agents 1,582 1,581 1,800 12,458 13,230 14,133
Motor car traders 154 158 143 2,111 2,056 2,008
Incorporated associations 2,126 1,837 2,006 40,577 41,212 41,296
Co-operatives 23 25 33 573 540 577
Fundraisers 980 631 778 2,091 2,029 1,953
Second-hand dealers and pawnbrokers 331 348 346 3,865 3,723 3,650
Patriotic funds 6 0 1 591 563 550
Limited partnerships 55 38 31 342 366 384
Conveyancers 99 92 136 820 877 961
Owners corporation managers 80 79 80 638 659 673
Retirement villages 14 13 14 439 447 453
Funeral service providers 10 14 8 434 448 453
Sex work service providers (licensees) 13 15 9 125 125 121
Sex work brothel managers 179 167 192 702 675 656